“I swear to God, if that iguana gets away there will be hell to pay!”
Cassidy did a little sideways dance, pushing Quinn in front of her so he was between her and the large reptile the neighborhood eccentric, Raymond Finley, was walking. The five-foot long lizard was straining against his harness, flicking his tongue out occasionally. Cassi was sure he was tasting the air for her scent.
“That’s a monitor lizard, not an iguana,” Que said. “Beside Mr. Finley has it on a leash.”
Grabbing on the back of Que’s shirt, Cassi kept sliding backward until she butted up against the stair railing of her brownstone’s stoop. Three-story brownstones, shaded by heritage oaks, lined a 13-block stretch in the historic district of town. It was a quiet, pleasant neighborhood, notwithstanding the gargantuan reptiles roaming the street.
“Indigenous to Africa, Australia and Asia, monitor lizards can make good pets if the owner is willing and able to spent the time to train and properly care for them,” Que was using his teacher voice, yattering on about habitat requirements, diet and skin care.
“They are carnivores, aren’t they?” Cassi pulled Que up the steps to her apartment, still keeping an eye on Finley and his suspect lizard.
“They only eat small animals and insects,” Que said. “You know… birds, mice, grasshoppers, maybe some raw chicken or eggs.”
“Human babies?” Cassi fumbled with her keys trying to open her front door.
“What?” Once inside Que draped his coat and scarf on a hook on the foyer wall. “Did you say, ‘human babies’?”
“You know the Compton’s in No. 275?” Cassi went to her front window, drawing back the curtain just enough to see out. “Well, their newborn went missing last week. The police think they did something to her and hid the body.”
“And you think Finley fed the baby to his lizard?” Que stood behind Cassi, looking over her shoulder into the street. “Really?”
“It’s not out of the realm of possibilities,” she said, pushing Que off her back. “I’m serious. That monster gives me the creeps.”
“Monitor…,” Que said. “You’re thinking of a Gila monster, totally different reptile.”
“You’re a totally different reptile,” she muttered under breath.
“What was that?” Que took one last look out the window. Finley and his lizard had turned around and were walking back their way.
“Nothing,” Cassi said. “I just don’t trust anything that looks like some kind of prehistoric dinosaur.”
“I’m sure ‘prehistoric dinosaur’ is redundant,” Que said, closing the curtain.
Cassi shook her head and went into the kitchen to make lunch. Que followed close behind.
Finley led his lizard up the steps into his apartment. He had converted the entire bottom floor into a reptile habitat. Only a short, gated wall separated it from the upstairs living quarters. The lizard had grown too heavy to climb the wall and was easy to contain.
After releasing the reptile from its harness, Finley left it to roam the apartment while he prepared their noon meal.
Picking up the lizard’s food bowl, Finley noticed a few odd scraps remaining. Curiously, one looked like the finger bone of a very small child.
He dumped the bowl’s contents into the kitchen sink and ran the disposal. A flush of water and any evidence would be washed away.
“Come and get it,” Finley called, wadding up the butcher paper a fryer carcass was wrapped in. “I know, this isn’t as fresh as your last meal, but it actually does taste like chicken.”